Wife of ex-N.C. Gov. Easley urged to resign university post

Leaders in the state's university system moved publicly Monday to force the resignation of Mary Easley, the former first lady criticized over a $170,000-per-year position she holds at N.C. State University.

The chairwoman of the UNC Board of Governors, the president of the UNC system and the chancellor at N.C. State University all said Easley should give up her job.

They all gave the same reason: for the good of N.C. State.

"It would be in the best interest of the university if she were to resign," Chancellor James Oblinger said. He said he has had a conversation with her.

Easley could not be reached for comment. Oblinger would not comment further, citing personnel laws.

Controversy has erupted amid disclosures over the past 10 days in The News & Observer about the creation of the position for Easley in 2005. She was hired to direct a speakers series at $80,000 per year. Last summer, she accepted a five-year contract worth $850,000. The raise came with an expanded role to include the formation of a public safety leadership center.

Easley has defended her job, saying she was uniquely qualified for it. She has refused numerous interview requests from The N&O in recent months.

Reporting has shown that Easley was first hired in May 2005 by Larry Nielsen, then the interim NCSU provost about to be replaced. N.C. State was conducting public interviews with four other candidates for the provost's job when Nielsen received a résumé from Easley, created a position in the provost's office, waived a job search and hired her.

For months, officials have said Nielsen acted alone. But university trustee McQueen Campbell, a longtime friend of Easley and former Gov. Mike Easley, told UNC system President Erskine Bowles last week that he played a role in the hiring.

Campbell, a real-estate broker, businessman and private pilot, flew the governor often while Mike Easley was a candidate and at other times. Campbell also got help from the Easley administration about the time the first lady's job was created.

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